TV Review: Only Murders in the Building (Season 2)

So if you follow this site regularly then you’ll probably already have read my review of season 1, but just in case you haven’t you can check that out here first. Anyway, considering the talent and pedigree of the main cast, it was no surprise that the first season was good, but honestly I did not expect to like it quite as much as I did. If anything, I was even more impressed and entertained by the new season, which does what many follow up seasons fail to do, and raises the stakes without just making the whole thing a ridiculous farce, or worse, a carbon copy of the first season with minor tweaks. 

Before we move on with the review properly, let me quickly give you the bare bones of the show, Only Murders in the Building is an American mystery/comedy-drama which aired on Disney+, the second season which we will be discussing today aired from June 28th 2022 until August 23rd 2022. It features the acting talent of Steve Martin (who also wrote the series, alongside John Hoffman), Martin Short and Selena Gomez. They play respectively, Charles-Haden Savage, Oliver Putnam and Mabel Mora, who begin the series as three relative strangers, with the only thing they share in common being that the live in the affluent Upper West Side apartment building, The Arconia, and that all three are also individually obsessed with a true crime podcast hosted by Cinda Canning (played by Tina Fey).

In the first season, the three of them come together to solve a murder which happens in The Arconia, a murder which has a unique connection to Mabel in particular. Along the way, while they an embroiled in the mystery, they decide to emulate their idol, Canning (a obvious parody of Sarah Koenig) and start their own True Crime podcast, cleverly titled, ‘Only Murders in the Building’. 

The second season picks up right where the finale of the first season left off *spoilers* with the gang not only celebrating having solved the mystery, but also the explosive success of their own podcast. Unfortunately things don’t remain all good for long, as when returning to her apartment, Mabel is confronted with a dying board President of the Arconia, Bunny Folger (played by Jayne Houdyshell), she manages to gasp a few final words before expiring, and of course Mabel is accused of the murder, and as you may or may not have guessed the plot of this season revolves around exonerate Mabel, and finding the real killer.

I have no particular reason for wanting to start with this point but I quickly wanted to talk about James Caverly as Theo Dimas. The actor who has been deaf since birth, and has been a proponent of better representation for the deaf community in the media was one of the many reasons why I liked this show so much. His character Theo is obviously deaf as well, and in particular I want to make reference to the 7th episode of season 1, entitled ‘The Boy from 6B’ which was so incredibly powerful due to the absence of audible dialogue throughout, and allows we as the audience to experience the episode in a similar fashion to someone with full or partial hearing loss.

It’s really impressive that they were able to weave this advocacy into both seasons, and they don’t sugar coat it either, Theo’s frustration at his condition, and having to navigate in a hearing focused world is palpable. Likewise the 7th episode of season 2, which is also a very Theo centric episode, shows the struggles in communicating and how difficult it can be to manage and interact with others, especially if they aren’t receptive to the manner in which you can communicate. Additionally, it gave Theo something of a redemption arc. I won’t cover what he did in season 1 that means he needs to be redeemed in the first place but what I will say is that despite some mistakes in the past, for which he and his his father are being punished, that I feel he is a good person at heart, and despite having perfectly valid reasons to dislike Mabel (and the rest of the gang) he still did his best to protect her.

Now I’m not sure whether I mentioned it in the previous review, but I really love a good murder mystery, I don’t even particularly mind whether it’s dark and heavy like Broadchurch, Mindhunter and Ragdoll or more lighthearted and whimsical (for a show about murders) like Murder She Wrote, Columbo and Midsomer Murders. I just love the unravelling of the puzzle, in essence I think I’ve always liked the whodunit format. Only Murders in the Building has that for sure, especially this season, where the killer kind of comes out of left field a little bit. I mean once they explain why they did it…and I mean what is this…Scooby Doo? It totally makes sense but whereas with the first season I think it would be possible to guess and/or intuit the killer, this one felt more nuanced and surprising on the whole. 

Jumping to a totally different topic again, a highlight of this season was Bunny Folger, she was more or less an ancillary character in the first season, acting more as a foil to Putnam (played by Martin Short) who in the early episodes is struggling financially and hasn’t paid the fees for his apartment in some time. However, admittedly all posthumously, she becomes a more fully realised character in death. We see through flashbacks, that despite her crotchety, no nonsense exterior she is a very caring, very emotional and vulnerable person, who at her core loves her role as board president and was very resistant to relinquishing it to someone else. I really felt for her, and not just because of her unceremonious dispatching, but because through the little vignettes into her life, she became a real person and not just some one-dimensional old lady. 

Okay back to what I thought of the second season of Only Murders in the Building, I can say with 100% certainty that I enjoyed it and I’m grateful that it is being picked up for a third season. While it will be sad to see Steve Martin more or less retire from acting, I fully believe that if Only Murders in the Building is to be his swan song, that it is a fitting conclusion to a phenomenal career. I think, obviously with his position as writer as well as main character, that it very much feels like a labour of love, because there’s so much about the show to appreciate, from the offbeat comedy, to the larger than life personalities, to the gripping mystery, backed up by a host of interesting and rich interwoven narratives and people. It all ties together to create a show that’s not only worth watching, but is worth remembering as well.

So yeah, Steve Martin is awesome, but he is only one component of the dream team of acting that brings the show to life, I mean without Martin Short’s energy and optimistic exuberance, the show would not work quite as well. Without Gomez to bring a touch of youth, and millennial apathy, again it just wouldn’t be the same. They each bring something to the mix which adds up to something greater than the sum of its parts.

I think the pacing for this season was better than the first, perhaps because the characters were already at least somewhat established, but there was just more room for the mystery this time around and it did not fail to disappoint.

Jumping to character establishment for a moment though, I really enjoyed episode 5 of the second season, entitled ‘The Tell’ not only was the framework and concept of the episode really cool. In fact, thinking about it now, it may be my favourite episode of the season. But also, it developed the character of Oliver Putnam further, and also reinforced the relationship between him and his son Will, which is an important secondary plot to this season. I especially liked the game ‘Son of Sam’ which is exactly the type of quirky and esoteric game that Oliver would like. Plus as the more obviously comedic of the gang, it was nice to see him fully in his element. 

I think the only thing that didn’t click for me was Cara Delevingne as Alice Banks, sure it was nice to get some LGBT+ representation on the show but while I like Delevingne, the entire season would have worked just as well without her, and it kind of pulled the plot in two directions. Sure, she was a fitting, potential killer, especially as she only appeared after everything went to hell, and it was nice seeing Mabel connect with someone, but she was not required. 

Still despite not really vibing with the character all that much, she was considerably better used than Amy Schumer (who played a fictionalised version of herself) who was just kind of there? She didn’t really leave any real impact or touch the plot in a meaningful way, which is a shame as I like Schumer.

Very quickly before I forget to mention it, a character I really did like was Zoe Colletti as Lucy. Not only was she really cool on her own, but she helps to fill a hole in Charles’s heart, left by his own father, and by the abandonment he faced from Lucy’s mother (Charles’s Ex) which caused him to see Looney Tunes characters in the first season. I think to some degree every character is healed or allowed to grow throughout this season and its another reason why the show is so rewarding. 

The relationships developed between the main characters in the first season are well realised in season two, you can feel the genuine concern and care they have for each other. I’m interested to see this continue to grow in the third season. I think second only to the actual mystery itself, are these relationships, and as I covered in my season one review, I think they all have excellent chemistry with one another. 

You see, Gomez is 30 years old, so she’s not super young anymore, but compared to Martin at 77 and Short at 72 she represent a much younger age group, likewise, they’ve both been acting for over forty years, whereas Gomez has comparatively less experience on screen, despite having a very reasonable amount of acting credits to her name. Despite this, there’s never any sense that she’s playing catch up to the pair, who have had a considerable career prior to Only Murders in the Building, and themselves have worked together previously, even embarking on several nation wide comedy tours. They all function incredibly well together, and you can feel the respect and camaraderie in every scene they share together.

I touched on it above, but the mystery this season was incredibly engaging, and I truly did not see it coming. Also, I liked that the gang got stuck into their own sort of meta narrative, where not only was there a podcast, about them and their murder podcast but also people kept pitching their own theories, because through the lens of a True Crime podcast, people forget the real lives and real damage caused my murder. It was a really interesting commentary and satire on True Crime podcasts, and armchair detectives.

So I enjoyed the suspense and drama, the levity and the real human emotion, the chemistry between the cast and the interesting dilemma and mystery at the heart of everything. I thoroughly enjoyed season 2 of Only Murders in the Building a 4/5.

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